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EU to Consumers: “Turn down. Switch off. Recycle. Walk.”

29 May 2006

The European Union has launched a campaign to raise the awareness of consumers about making small changes to daily routines to help reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The “You Control Climate Change” campaign, launched today by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas in Brussels, offers tips on reducing emissions while endowing people with a sense of personal responsibility and empowerment. EU Member States will be launching the campaign at national level over the next few days.

People may say that their individual behaviour does not matter; I say—on the contrary: Households in the EU count for a large part of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so each of us has a role to play in bringing down emissions. Our campaign will provide citizens with information about climate change and their role in combating it. Doing the right thing is not as difficult as it seems.

—Commissioner Stavros Dimas

The basic themes of the campaign—“Turn down. Switch off. Recycle. Walk.”— will be plastered on giant posters, advertising campaigns and T-shirts (including one to be worn by Manneken Pis in Brussels).

A campaign website offers some 50 tips how to reduce emissions, ranging from turning down the heating by 1ºC (up to 10% of the energy used for heating saved) to avoiding the stand-by mode of TV sets, stereos and computers (10% of the energy they use saved) and printing double-sided (up to 50% of paper saved). A carbon calculator calculates the amount of carbon dioxide saved by each action, and visitors can also download a power-saving screen saver for their computers.

The campaign also targets secondary school pupils, who will be encouraged to sign a pledge to reduce their CO2 emissions and track their efforts.

The campaign has a budget is €4.7 million (US$6 million). While the website will be available permanently, the campaign will be carried out in three concentrated waves:in June, September and November 2006.

Households in the EU are responsible for some 16% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Per head and year, each EU citizen is responsible for 11 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly CO2. Most of the greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are caused by the production and use of energy (61%) followed by transport (21%). Households use almost one third of the energy consumed in the EU, and private cars are responsible for roughly half of the transport emissions.

May 29, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

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Being an EU citizen used to mean thinking of the nation-state as a service industry rather than as a source of identity (and security). The EU was an instrument for changing the continent's hidebound ways.

The problem in the EU is that many national politicians no longer see it as a vehicle for leading their citizens through scary but sensible structural changes. There was a time when (most) citizens were prepared to go along with joint trade negotiations, eliminating borders and adopting a common currency because enough of their neighbors were also on board.

The same psychology could now be applied to intractable problems such as rigid labor markets, global warming etc. Unfortunately, the EU has recently expanded so fast that many citizens are unsure of what it now stands for. Caught between antiquated tortuous diplomatic rituals of respect for national sovereignty and public hopes of a clear, bold vision for the 21st century, the EU's institutions are today failing to satisfy anyone.

In this context, the present worthy effort exhorting individuals to take responsibility for their CO2 footprint is a bit of a letdown. Sure, small fry does add up but it's hard to get excited about it in the absence of a big picture that also encompasses industry and government. Doing your part is one thing. Giving others a free ride is quite another.

"The basic themes of the campaign—'Turn down. Switch off. Recycle. Walk.'"

Take off your caps, peasants. Don't you know how vile you are. You eat too much, you drink to much, you use too much fuel, you keep your houses too warm in the winter and too cold in the summer, you buy cars that are too big and fancy things that are inapproriate to your station in life. You are disrespectful to your betters, and noisy in your disrespect.

The world will be better when you learn your proper station in life.

I would say it is a good idea. Most people consume profligate amounts of energy and think nothing of it. They could easily reduce their footprint without reducing their quality of life, initially for very little effort.
The only problem is that if Europe goes on an energy diet and reduces demand, the Indians and Chinese (and US) will just consume more.

Also, did you see the "CO2" pledge they are asking people to take ?
It is like the pledge we used to have in Ireland to avoid ethanol until we were 18.
I think they are trying to replace religion with greenary - you might as well fill the gap with something and it is better than new age nonsense.

However, Robert as one good point - how do you display status in a society where you are not encouraged buy a big car ?

Mahonj -

in Northern California, many among the moneyed elite (a rather large group over there, btw) are now increasingly driving hybrids rather than land yachts. The Toyota Prius in particular is successful because it only comes in one flavor: hybrid. Owning one in spite of its marginal economics advertises not only environmental awareness (sadly, still mostly a parlor game for the well-off) but also spare cash (in a suitably understated way).

In other words, over there automotive status comes from being an early adopter, a trendsetter. This concept does work in Europe as well, with other green technologies (e.g. diesel particulate filters).

What no European carmaker has yet had the courage (and marketing savvy) to do is deliver an upscale model that is instantly associated with a particular (set of) green innovation(s) - a true marketing vehicle. It's a risky and expensive strategy, but it has done wonders for Toyota's brand image.

For example, VW could have chosen to introduce its highly innovative 1.4L dual-charger engine plus dual-clutch transmission in a distinctively styled new vehicle based on the Golf platform. This will now happen, in the form of the revived Scirocco and perhaps, the Concept A.

However, by introducing these elements piecemeal and only in Europe, they have lost the the opportunity to earn kudos for innovation excellence in the US where they are losing both market share and mindshare. Americans love risk-takers.

The idea is OK. But first I wanna see the members of the EU Commission - and especially Mr. Barroso - driving around in a Peugeot 206 1,4 HDI or a Fiat Punto 1,25 Multijet Diesel that gets something like 60 mpg.

After that, they should encourage the "peasants" to reduce emissions.

At some point, hopefully not too late, the huddled masses must demand that the government & industrial complex follow suit both in the EU and US! This awareness program appears to be good groundwork for these means.

India & China on the contrary will not horde the balance, since we may not require that they mass produce our fashionable disposables?!

Ok, so households are are responsible for 15% of CO2 emissions, and private cars for 10%. So the citizens of the EU can directly influence about 25% of CO2 emissions. My guess is that this plea will be ignored by 80% of the people. The remaining 'peasants of good will' will perhaps cut their CO2 emissions by 10% on average. Total reduction of CO2 emissions: half a percent.

Add to that the countries in eastern Europe that recently joined the EU and are on a track for fast economic development. As a consequence they will consume more energy, thus emitting more CO2. Same situation as we have with China and India on the global scale.

One more fine example of completely clueless leaders. They still seek solutions in conservation and efficiency. But practically this will only limit the growth of CO2-emissions. Until now all increases in efficiency have not been able to keep up with growth in demand. I do not see that changing anywhere in the short and middle long term.

What we need is a fast and considerable reduction. Not because we know it harms the environment. We don't know, we only suspect it. But logic dictates: better be safe than sorry.

If we want to keep our modern life filled with comfort and gadgets, there is only one solution: clean energy. The EU should start investing immediately and heavily in clean technology that is available now (instead of pumping 10 billon euros in nuclear fusion research that will probably not be able to make a visible contribution for at least half a century). Otherwise we will only see a lot of noble and well intended initiatives not being able to halt the continuing rise in CO2 emissions.

"in Northern California, many among the moneyed elite (a rather large group over there, btw) are now increasingly driving hybrids rather than land yachts."

Almost makes up for their private jets.

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